Sunday, May 10, 2009


Very rarely have the Singapore mainstream media gone after a story with such unbridled ferocious sharks thrashing about in a feeding frenzy!Yup, I'm referring to the controversy surrounding AWARE.

Unless you were on a holiday in Mars, you'd probably have read or heard about the AWARE saga. For the uninitiated AWARE is a civil organization dedicated to women's issues.

A few ladies, led by Josie Lau, took over the leadership of AWARE at the group’s annual AGM. This new team attempted to steer the organization back to its original purpose of only dealing with women’s issues. AWARE’s growing links with the gay lobby in Singapore were viewed as a distraction to the group's original purpose. A training manual, sponsored by AWARE, on sexuality which was used to prepare trainers for sex education in schools was found to encourage homosexual behavior.

The ousted old of guard of the organization hit back hard. They managed to convene an EGM and recaptured the reins of power at the meeting. The endless stream of stories and columns in the press further polarized the supporters of old guard from the new team. Much was made of the new team's church affiliation and christian background.

The Singapore mass media are a tame lot. They’re into nation building (euphemism for communicating government views) and normally avoid stories which portray Singapore as conflict ridden. Foreign investors dont like political instability. The appearance of a well run country is a central motif in newspaper reporting. If there was an academy award for self censorship, Singapore mainstream media would blow the competition away.

And so the sight of the media inciting rivalry between the two opposing groups was a bit of a shocker. Singapore media have learned a thing or two from their Western or Latin American colleagues.

Was I in Singapore? For a moment I thought I was in Bolivia. The Bolivian media, not unlike the media in freewheeling liberal democracies, are experts in playing up opposing viewpoints for the sake of sensationalism. And sensationalism sells newspapers; strong sales bring in advertising revenue.

Some of the reporting was balanced…but by and large the media-driven stereotype of the new team as narrow minded Christian Talibans sunk them.

Josie's team should have been given a chance, a year at least, to work at their plans and prove themselves to the AWARE members. A challenge to dismount her team could have been initiated at the following AGM. Unfortunately an EGM was convened by the older leadership to reverse the decisions of the AGM.

Hopefully the mainstream media would have learned a thing or two from this episode and refrain from one sided reporting.


Anonymous said...

wow very interesting

blogpastor said...

I think its the media network of Margaret Thomas that got things swinging in the direction of aware's original ladies.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the press should use their new found freedom from self censorship on other matters.